Beware of fake shopping websites

Friday, May 13, 2016


Many consumers have encountered problems with online orders from shopping sites that look like they are based in the U.S. but are actually based overseas out of reach of many legal protections for shoppers. In the cases we've seen, consumers either do not receive their orders or receive products that are poorly made, in the wrong size or do not match the advertised product. Often times, when the consumer tries to return the products, they learn that the shipping costs would be exorbitant. 

Because these companies are overseas, there’s very little recourse when something goes wrong so prevention is the best prescription. Here are some tips on spotting a fake site:

  • Look for a physical address and phone number on the website. 
  • Before ordering, try to call any listed phone number to see if it works. Beware of post office box addresses, which may indicate that there is no physical address and that mail is forwarded elsewhere.
  • Check where the products will be shipped from.  If they are shipped from overseas, the order may take a long time arrive (or never arrive) or you could receive the wrong product.
  • Find reviews (if any) about the company by entering its name in a search engine.
  • Compare the prices on its products on other more well-known sites. It could be a red flag for fraud if its prices are a lot lower than at other sites.
  • Review the terms and conditions of the site. Look for its refund policy, average delivery times and return shipping costs.
  • Always use a credit card as credit cards provide more protection than a debit or prepaid card if you need to dispute the purchase.

Report fraudulent shopping sites to:

Consumer Action empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers nationwide to financially prosper through education and advocacy. For help in knowing where to file your consumer complaints, contact our Hotline via our website or at 415-777-9635. English, Spanish and Chinese spoken.




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